Literacy encompasses reading, writing, listening, and speaking, which enables all of us, including children, to communicate with others. Childhood literacy difficulties can include knowing the alphabet letters and their sounds, rhyming, and the ability to sound out letters and words.
While speech, language, and literacy development occur in a specific order for most children, the age or timing at which skills emerge can differ from child to child. Some children are slow to talk, as it was the case for my younger sister. Why? Because her sister, one year older, always spoke for both of them! However, by the time she was 4 years old, she did her own talking. She could speak—she just chose not to. This example shows that not talking might be a literacy difficulty, or it might not.
If your 4-year-old is having difficulties with making letter sounds, recognizing alphabet letters, or having trouble making shapes that look like letters, it may show a problem that requires evaluation. Another potential difficulty would be the inability to make rhymes, play with rhyming words, or repeat at least parts of nursery rhymes.
When the child is working on reading books, a 4-year-old may have problems if she or he can’t:
- Discern what action is happening, such as running or eating,
- Tell the difference between the front and back of a book or which is right side up,
- Name simple objects in books, such as a ball, dog, or cat.
Other indications of a problem involve forgetting books they’ve read before, even when seeing the book cover and dislike being read to regularly by an adult.
If you find any of these potential problems, take your child for evaluation with a reading specialist.